Few data exist on the temporal relationship between catecholamines and muscle force production in vivo. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of preexercise arousal on sympathoadrenal neurohormones on muscular force expression during resistance exercise. Ten resistance-trained men completed two experimental conditions separated by 7 days: 1) acute heavy resistance exercise protocol (AHREP; 6 x 10 repetitions parallel squats, 80% 1 repetition maximum) and 2) control (Cont; rest). Peak force (F(peak)) was recorded during a maximal isometric squat preceding each set and mean force (F(mean)) was measured during each set. Serial venous blood samples were collected before the AHREP and immediately preceding each set. Blood collection times were matched during Cont. Preexercise epinephrine (Epi), norepinephrine (NE), and dopamine (DA) increased (P <or= 0.05) above Cont by 270, 255, and 164%, respectively. During exercise, Epi, NE, and DA continued to increase by 512, 271, and 38%, respectively, above preexercise values. F(peak) and F(mean) decreased by approximately 20-25% over the course of the AHREP. Post hoc data analysis revealed that five subjects (F(maintainers)) showed no decline (P >or= 0.05) in muscular performance (F(peak), F(mean)) during AHREP and that five subjects (F(reducers)) had significant reductions in F(peak) and F(mean). Integrated area under the curve for Epi, NE, and F(peak) were greater (P < 0.02) for F(maintainers) than F(reducers). In conclusion, an anticipatory rise in catecholamines existed, which may be essential for optimal force production at the onset of exercise.